Melbourne, Wellington share spoils amid controversy

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/2014, Round 23

4pm, Sunday 16 March, 2014 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Heart FC 2 (Germano 29’, Williams 62’ pen)
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Krishna 6’, Boyd 57′)

Melbourne Heart and Wellington Phoenix fought out a thrilling 2-2 draw in their Hyundai A-League encounter on March 16 at AAMI Park, where a small crowd – just 5,614 were in attendance – witnessed yet another controversial display of refereeing from Ben Williams which will leave Wellington fans questioning the official’s integrity.

A pulsating opening forty-five minutes burst into life just four minutes into the contest, when Orlando Engelaar’s blocked cross fell to Benjamin Garrucio. He set up David Williams for a twenty-yarder which the winger sent fizzing past the post.

Wellington’s response, two minutes later, saw the scoreboard change for the first time in this match. Michael Boxall’s block tackle stopped Jonatan Germano in his tracks, and the fullback promptly sent Roy Krishna racing clear from half-way.

The Fijian took on two Melbourne defenders before engineering some space near the edge of the penalty area, from where he sent a low drive arrowing through the legs of goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and inside his near post to open the scoring for the visitors.

Melbourne came storming back, and after Ben Sigmund’s vital block denied Harry Kewell’s drive at close quarters, Germano’s headed goal was ruled out by the offside flag in the eleventh minute.

Four minutes later, Williams’ pursuit of a seemingly lost cause should have paid dividends for the home team, the winger outmuscling Boxall before setting up Mate Dugandzic, who was arriving at pace at the near post some six yards from goal. He somehow blazed the ball over the bar when scoring appeared the easier option – a bad miss, make no mistake!

Cue the other Williams, the one who should never be mentioned yet somehow manages to make himself the centre of attention far too often for the game’s greater good. In the seventeenth minute, Patrick Kisnorbo gifted possession to Manny Muscat, who promptly released Krishna on the right.

He dashed into the penalty area before picking out Tyler Boyd with a cross which the striker controlled before firing towards the target. His goalbound shot was clearly handled by the recovering figure of Kisnorbo – a stonewall penalty and a sending-off offence to boot, surely. Mr Williams thought otherwise, turning a blind eye to the incident and ignoring Wellington’s vehement protests.

Three minutes later, it was Melbourne’s turn to harangue the official for another case of poor judgement. Krishna caught Kisnorbo late, with the defender having just managed to send the ball downfield, releasing David Williams with just Glen Moss to beat.

Cue the sound of the referee’s whistle, a free-kick – but no corresponding yellow card – being deemed appropriate by Mr Williams, something which was hardly advantageous to the home team.

Melbourne continued to probe, and were finally rewarded in the 29th minute with a stunning goal. A corner was cleared to Dugandzic, lurking just outside the penalty area, from where he hit an absolute missile through a crowded goalmouth. The ball ricocheted off Germano and past the diving figure of Moss – 1-1, and how!

Two minutes later, Mr Williams intervened again, this time correctly. Kewell picked out David Williams with an absolute peach of a pass which the winger controlled on his chest. Sigmund clipped him just outside the penalty area, and down Williams went, with the refereeing Williams instantly wielding the yellow card in Sigmund’s direction, the proximity of Moss to the ball the defender’s saving grace this time round.

After David Williams had gone close with a jinking run and rising angled drive from the edge of the penalty area seconds later, his namesake intervened once more in the 33rd minute, deeming Sigmund’s aerial clash with Kewell merited a second yellow card in as many minutes for the defender. Out came Mr Williams’ red card – Wellington were down to ten for the duration.

Not that you’d have thought they were, given what followed. After Dugandzic had lashed a low drive straight at Moss following the resulting free-kick, Wellington twice went close to regaining the lead in the next few minutes.

Firstly, Stein Huysegems’ corner was met by the head of Boxall, forcing Redmayne to parry the ball. Melbourne scrambled clear on this occasion, while in the 38th minute, the goalkeeper produced a stunning one-handed save to keep out a rising eight yard drive from Krishna, after Kenny Cunningham, Huysegems and Boyd had combined to good effect around the edge of the penalty area.

Only a poor first touch by Jason Hoffman prevented him from doing justice to another unerring Kewell pass six minutes before half-time, soon after which Boyd brought the best out of Redmayne yet again – it was that sort of half, one which concluded with Boxall stepping in to thwart Williams after he had pounced on a stray pass from Cunningham.

It was Moss’ turn to produce some top saves early in the second spell, Wellington’s ‘keeper denying Dugandzic with a fine point-blank range stop before grabbing Kewell’s thirty-yarder. But in between times, referee Williams courted yet more controversy, failing to punish Germano with a yellow card after the midfielder clearly hauled on the shirt of Boxall as the muscular Wellington defender charged downfield.

Wellington had introduced Matthew Ridenton in place of Huysegems at half-time, as they rejigged their line-up to accommodate Sigmund’s absence. The substitute was instrumental in the 56th minute, his super pass picking out Krishna on the right. He got to the byline before drilling a low cross into the goalmouth which Redmayne could only parry, right into the stride of Boyd – 2-1 Wellington.

Back came Melbourne, with a vengeance. And after Moss had smothered a Williams drive, Mr Williams courted controversy yet again, handing the home team the softest of penalties after Kewell had gone down under the challenge of Muscat inside the area. David Williams slammed home the 62nd minute spot-kick – 2-2, and a grandstand finish very much on the cards.

The fans weren’t disappointed, although the locals certainly were when substitute Nick Kalmar went for glory in the 72nd minute with Williams and Dugandzic either side of him. Six minutes later, Kewell sent one sizzling past the far post after Iain Ramsay had teamed up with Dugandzic.

Within seconds, David Willliams was denied another goal, his refereeing namesake deeming the winger guilty of a high-footed challenge to prevent Shaun Timmins from clearing his lines, this despite the fact the bouncing ball was above knee height, inviting both players to contest it. The Melbourne man did, blocking the clearance before running on to score, only for referee Williams to call play back.

After Moss had kept out a Ramsay effort, it was Wellington’s turn to endure the sheer incompetence, utter inconsistency and intriguing interpretations of the Laws of the Game of referee Williams once more, eight minutes from time.

Substitute Jeremy Brockie went down in the area under the challenge of Stefan Mauk, an incident not dissimilar to the earlier penalty incident from which Melbourne had drawn level. Needless to say, referee

Williams wasn’t having a bar of Wellington’s appeals on this occasion, leading one to wonder if he ever has …

Yet more controversy followed, the official deeming that Andrew Durante, on his 150th A-League appearance for Wellington, had blocked a Kisnorbo effort in the 85th minute, when the makeshift striker – the beneficiary of Kewell’s header down from a Ramsay cross – had fired across the face of goal.

Durante quite rightly did his nut at the awarding of a corner. How he managed to avoid using the ‘C’ word in his tirade at referee Williams only Wellington’s captain will know – his restraint in the circumstances was commendable, even if his frustration-laden outburst earned him a yellow card.

Ramsay went close from the resulting corner with a rasping thirty yarder, before Durante produced some superb defensive play to prevent Mauk from putting Melbourne in front for the first time in the match, after Kewell and Williams had combined three minutes from time.

Wellington debutant Hamish Watson came close to crowning his first appearance in the desired manner in the time which remained, Melbourne’s fast-retreating rearguard outnumbering him after he had caught Garrucio in possession on half-way.

And after Moss had produced another stunning save at point-blank range in stoppage time to frustrate Williams, after he had worked a one-two with Massimo Murdocca, the visitors came close to clinching a dramatic victory at the death, Boxall heading Brockie’s free-kick past the far post after yet another dubious decision from referee Williams, whose performance in this match should be formally reviewed by the A-League’s refereeing panel – not good enough!

The 2-2 scoreline does neither team many favours, given just four rounds remain before the premiership phase concludes. Melbourne are six points off the play-off spots following this result, while Wellington are three points better off, although both have inferior goal difference records compared to the current occupants of sixth spot, Adelaide United.

Match details
Crowd: 5,614

Melbourne Heart FC: Redmayne; Hoffman, Wielaert, Kisbnorbo, Garrucio (booked, 19); Murdocca, Engelaar (Kalmar, 57), Germano (booked, 70) (Mauk, 75); Dugandzic (Ramsay, 78 (booked, 90)), Kewell, Williams

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss; Boxall, Sigmund (booked, 31, 33 – sent off), Durante (booked, 85), Timmins; Lia, Muscat (booked, 61), Cunningham (Watson, 81); Krishna (booked, 20), Huysegems (Ridenton, 46), Boyd (Brockie, 60)

Points and ratings
Match: 8
Referee: Ben Williams 1/10 – and that’s being generous!!!
Pitch: 7/10

3. David Williams (MH)
2. Roy Krishna (WP)
1. M. Boxall (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane